The offshore waters of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia are home to the lesser and greater amberjack. Amberjack fishing is done primarily on structure and vegetation both beneath and at the surface of the water. While each shares similarities, the two species are uniquely different. For some, the question always remains, what is the difference between greater amberjack and lesser amberjack?

Greater Amberjack

The greater amberjack, also known as the amberfish or AJ, is the larger version of the lesser AJ. Greater amberjack is notorious for its stamina and strength when hooked by anglers. 

What Is The Range Of Greater Amberjack

When it comes to range, the fish is widely distributed along the eastern coast of the United States. The fish is most densely populated between Cape Hatteras and Florida but does extend as far north as Cape Cod, Massachusetts. 

How To Identify Greater Amberjack 

When it comes to identifying the greater amberjack, the differences between the greater and the smaller are subtle. 

AJ’s are notorious for thick and heavy bodies. The lower portion of the greater amberjack is silver, and the upper brown. A yellow line extending from the head to the tail divides the color change.

Power is generated from the deeply forked tail. Lastly, a dark line passes through the eye and terminates at the beginning of the dorsal fin. 

How Big Do Greater Amberjack Grow

Amberjack congregates in schools. Schooling-sized fish average ten pounds. Anglers consistently catch thirty to sixty-pound AJ’s.  Lastly, greater amberjack tips the scales at over 100 pounds.

How Is The Greater Amberjack Caught

The most effective method for catching AJ’s is by suspending live baits over underwater wrecks. The most effective live baits include google eyes, blue runners, pilchards, and ballyhoo

Heavy rods and reels are required due to the size and strength of the fish. The minimum line weight is fifty pounds to avoid break-offs from greater amberjack diving for shelter in wrecks. 

Are Greater Amberjack Good To Eat

Greater amberjack make excellent table fare. When describing the taste and texture amberjack are firm, buttery, and rich in flavor. Anglers prefer to smoke or grill AJ fillets. 

Lesser Amberjack

Nearly identical to the greater amberjack is, the lesser amberjack. Consider the lesser to be much like the name implies a smaller variety. 

What Is The Range Of A Lesser Amberjack

The lesser extends from Florida to Cape Cod much like the greater amberjack. Distribution is even across the fish’s range.

How To Identify A Lesser Amberjack

When differentiating between the greater amberjack and the lesser AJ, keep in your mind the lesser is the offspring. Although the lesser is not the offspring, the appearance is nearly identical. 

Again, the lesser AJ features a deeply forked tail, silver bottom half, and brown upper portion divided by a yellow line. The only difference except for size is the band through the eye. With close examination, the black bar ends before the beginning point of the dorsal fin. 

How Big Do Lesser Amberjack Grow

In contrast to the bigger AJ, the smaller version of the amberjack grows up to twenty inches and rarely exceeds ten pounds. 

How Is The Lesser Amberjack Caught

The smaller amberjack species is found primarily along weed lines in offshore coastal waters. Anglers catch lesser AJ’s by casting small lures along sarggaso beds with light action spinning rods and reels. The fish is an excellent fighter, particularly with lightweight gear. 

Are Lesser Amberjack Good To Eat

Unlike the greater amberjack, the lesser amberjack does not possess the same eating qualities. The fillets are thin, small, and, most importantly, lack flavor. Release the fish back into the sea. 

So What Is The Most Sought After Amberjack

The most highly sought-after amberjack between the greater and lesser is the greater. Anglers primarily target greater amberjack because they combine excellent fighting capabilities with flavorful fillets when grilled or smoked. Due to its poor food qualities and size, anglers infrequently target the lesser variety. Remember to obtain a saltwater fishing license when venturing offshore for either of the amberjack species.